PARKERSBURG - From red carpets to animals to balloons to clowns, Wood County teachers and administrators focused on the "wow factor" for the first day of school Monday.
"We wanted to wow our students so they would go home and talk about how fun school was and be excited to come back tomorrow," said Criss Elementary Principal Mary Vincent.
To do that, the school brought in Jackson, Ohio-based comedy magician Mark Wood for a program titled "Fun With Science." Wood had the student body laughing with antics that included shooting toilet paper into the air with a leaf blower to demonstrate Bernoulli's Principle, which explains how planes rise into the air.
Vienna Elementary School Principal Julie Handley waves pompoms and greets students Monday morning for the opening of schools in Wood County. Students walked through the tunnel used by the Parkersburg High School Big Red football team. (Photo by Jess Mancini)
Wood County Schools Superintendent John Flint, second from left, interacts with a Fairplains Elementary third-grader on Monday as third-grade teacher Heidi Diamond watches. Monday was the first day of classes for Wood County schools. (Photo by Evan Bevins)
Williamstown Elementary Principal Heather Bretthauer, back center, and Assistant Principal Suzy Schofield, back right, pose for a picture with, from left, sixth-graders Josh Ingram and Ella Hesson and third-grader Colton Hesson Monday morning. The principals dressed as clowns to go along with the circus theme for the school’s first day of classes. (Photo courtesy of Heather Bretthauer)
Comedy magician Mark Wood shoots toilet paper into the air using a leaf blower to demonstrate Bernoulli’s Principle, which helps explain how airplanes fly, during a first-day-of-school program at Criss Elementary School Monday. (Photo by Evan Bevins)
"Wow" was precisely the word one Vienna Elementary student used Monday morning before running like greased lightning through the inflatable football helmet and tunnel the Parkersburg High School Big Reds use to make their entrance onto the gridiron. On Monday, it served as the entryway for the school.
Principal Julie Handley carried pompoms and greeted students upon the start of the 2014-15 academic year.
"Good luck," she said as students approached the massive air-filled tunnel.
At Williamstown Elementary, Principal Heather Bretthauer and Assistant Principal Suzy Schofield dressed as clowns, and students were given tickets to "the greatest school on Earth" where circus-themed activities awaited.
Fairplains Elementary students were met with cutouts of animals, palm trees and safari hats that tied into a nine-week, school-wide unit on animals. Students and teachers alike said they were happy to be back.
"I'm most excited about everything," said third-grader Mariah Mulinex, who was already looking forward to today's outdoor activities. "We're going to have very, so much fun tomorrow."
At Waverly Elementary, students were welcomed with a red carpet.
"(We) just thought it would be a great way to start off the new school year and welcome our kids back and let them know how special we think they are," sixth-grade teacher Gretchen Hammer said.
The students were divided into groups that included kids from first through sixth grade and spent the day going to different classrooms for writing and drawing workshops, movement classes, a team-building exercise in which they had to build towers out of marshmallows and spaghetti noodles and more.
Monday was the first first day of school for John Flint as county superintendent. He was trying to make an appearance at all 27 schools, speaking with and encouraging students and teachers along the way.
Flint said the special first-day activities get the year off to a strong start.
"Kids and parents need to see that the school's motivated to provide an excellent learning atmosphere, and that's part of it," he said.
The atmosphere may not have been quite as festive for the older students, but interim Parkersburg South High School Principal Tim McCartney said teachers were also trying for "a little bit of what I call the wow factor" as they introduced their classes Monday.
South senior Chelsie Deems said she was excited to begin the year - even if it seemed to start a little too soon.
"I was hoping for a little more summer," she said. "It went by kind of fast."
Junior Hadassah Lane wasn't exactly thrilled to go back to school, but she liked what she heard from her teachers Monday.
"They really seem to actually care," she said.